(Posted by Glaucon Jr)
This past week I posted an open letter to the priests serving the Archdiocese of Agana, and part of that letter included my plea for priests to be proactively engaged in the Catholic renewal on Guam that is so necessary. In other words, lead from the front, and by your example.
A lot of comments and talk were generated about this, particularly about how to renew the Church, while others commented about the need for cleaning up the mess we are in. And both are right in principle. There is an enormous difference between reform and renewal, and both are necessary. But we must distinguish them so we don’t get too confused to what we are doing here. We can't get limp in our resolve, nor be so furious we lose clarity.
So to be perfectly clear: as far as I'm concerned, dialogue about future renewal with whomever wants to engage alters absolutely nothing in our fight for reform and for the required accountability on the part of the hierarchy. Anything short of that reform isn’t dialogue; it’s a betrayal of Christ and His Church.
That said, if we clean up the mess on Guam and then do not enter into a period of real renewal, then we are doomed to suffer the woe seen in Matthew 12:43-45:
“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation.”
So if we are blessed to be rid of all this corruption that destroys the Faith and then do not grow in Faith, we will become far more corrupt and polluted in the future, and with a far worse fate.
Wisdom is required, and no, I don’t have all the answers. But even without all the answers, even I know where to look for them.
To his great credit, the only priest bold enough to openly declare himself--Fr. Efren--commented to the post under his own name, and he included five areas needed for the renewal of the Church:
1 work for justice for the victims of clergy abuse
2 identify and rectify irregularities in traditional practice of the Faith
3 safeguard the patrimony of the local Church
4 safeguard financial stability of Catholic schools and parishes
5 reinvigorate enthusiasm of local community to inspire trust in the Ordinary
Speaking only for myself, I can only say this: Father Efren's five points look solid, but, they are in fact constitutive of reform rather than renewal. Sound like I’m splitting hairs? Well, mixing up reform and renewal is the #1 way of guaranteeing that the Church gets neither! If we think them same-same, then we will inevitably be led to compromise and settling for whatever deal we can get.
But Father took a step forward, and that’s a good start. But it’s nowhere close to enough.
For reform to happen, it must come from the LAITY. It’s that simple. The clergy as a whole just can’t handle it. Even with dialogue with the laity, the most that the clergy can hope for reform-wise is undoing the damage of the recent past and return to normal. And that simply can’t happen, nor should it. Remember Matthew 12.
We simply cannot take that risk. It's not a matter of forgiveness; it's a matter of dealing with things flat on. That's what all of us in the Jungle Watch Nation get and are willing to work toward together.
Most of what we discuss on JungleWatch is concerned with justice and the reform that will flow from it. The Church on Guam in Her human capacity suffers from a serious disease, and it’s fundamental to saving the Faith on Guam that what is diseased be either healed or cut out. If Hon is the one stopping the healing, then we are bound for the sake of the Body of Christ to oppose him when he wants to put a sweet little band-aid where there is massive head trauma.
Either way, the silence over child sexual abuse (not to mention sexual abuse and child abuse in general) must end. The gross liberties taken with the patrimony of the Church must end. Clerical secrecy and amoral subculture must end. And when justice is done and the complete lack of oversight dealt with properly, then we know that the reform is in full force.
But when all is said and done, what then? What comes after? Will it be a return to a “real” Catholicism on Guam? How do we define what that is?
And if what we did was so successful, then why did abortion, divorce, same-sex marriage, rampant suicide, and groups like the NCW, the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and every other variety of non-Catholic cult make such inroads? Is it all at Apuron’s feet, or is it a bit broader than that?
Remember Matthew 12.
Ultimately, all these evils that cause such a demand for justice and for reform flows from a collapse of faith. And this collapse of faith has actually been spread throughout our population by a potentially fatal spiritual illness: lukewarmness.
When I see what the cults and the annihilators of Tradition do in our world today, the famous line comes to mind that “the best lack all conviction, and the worst are full of passionate intensity.” Our own cultural Catholicism has helped sow the seeds. Real faith is required, not just self-identification as Catholics.
And the good news is that Catholics on Guam have an awful lot of faith--if not in Christ Himself (for so many), then at least in His Church and the graces She dispenses, and that should give us great cause for joy. It also makes it readily apparent that betrayal of the Church at this point causes a loss of souls who are ripe for conversion and practically begging to receive the Lord more fully.
The actual renewal we need, the medicine we need, the key to the actual return after our exile (as it were), is found in the example of the ancient Jews coming back from Babylon: the return to proper worship. We must return to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Not just beautiful, faithful liturgy (although that is crucial), but a return to the true devotion to Real Presence.
And THAT's where priestly involvement really is crucial because the laity cannot do it. Only priests can. Priests are first and foremost offerers of sacrifice and secondarily administrators (in the grand scheme of things). Administration comes with pastoring, but authentic pastoring flows from the Sacrifice of the Mass. After all, no priest ever went to Heaven because he was a just an outstanding administrator.
Bishop Sheen’s rule for priests applies equally for the laity: if only we would grow in our love for the Lord in the Eucharist, we would very quickly see great evils in our Church dwindle to small annoyances.
The fact of the matter is that when I say we must really and truly return to the Sacraments and to the Rosary and Scapular, what I usually hear is, “Yes, but what about…?” as if that’s too basic. But the Sacraments are the key. That’s why I brought up my own five items to consider for real renewal of the Church on Guam.
• The installation of a holy bishop (or at least honest)
• Return to the Sacrifice of the Mass (hence, not Apuron’s famous “breadiness of the bread”)
• Demand for holy priests
• Catechesis for men on manning up and living the vocation of husband and father
• Faithful Roman catechesis for children
My list will vary from others. That’s fine. I’m not an expert. But I do know why we are ultimately at this true crisis.
As for the reforms themselves, they will be a massive undertaking, but the reason for all of it is the good of the Body of Christ, who receives Her sustenance from His Body and Blood.
As for dialogue, I will only say this: it sounds good in principle, but if you’re not fixed on what’s the end-game, then it’s just a waste of time. Dialogue
I know I don’t speak for revolutionaries, nor reactionaries. I only speak for myself. I know that what I say about reform and renewal as principles is true because history has shown it time and again. Remember the Gospel above. We sometimes concentrate on love thy neighbor, and sometimes on Christ cleansing the Temple. But when we remember everything else, then we know being sweetness and light or zealous and bold alone cannot sustain us. Only Christ Himself can, and then we can be both of these and so much more, without any fracture, or hypocrisy, or moral uncertainty.